What happened to Bears running back-by-committee, run-based offense in Week 1?

What happened to Bears running back-by-committee, run-based offense in Week 1?

One weekly amusement — or bemusement — with the Bears offense of Marc Trestman was how the weekly commitment to running the football was typically gone by halftime, sometimes by the end of the first three-and-out series, regardless of score.

So it was curious that the Bears of John Fox, which ran the football a respectable 46 percent of their offensive snaps, last Sunday in Houston called nine running plays to 16 pass plays in the first half. The result was a 14-10 halftime lead with the help of a 54-yard completion to Alshon Jeffery and a 19-yard TD pass to Eddie Royal.

Running back Jeremy Langford had eight of the nine first-half rushes, Ka’Deem Carey one, and Carey would get none at all in the second half. Langford managed a paltry 2.8 yards per carry, not the kind of production that sustains a run game ultimately.

In the second half Langford upped his production to 3.9 yards per carry, with nine rushes. Carey, the other half of the “committee” that Fox has traditionally favored for his backfields’ approach, did not see the football.

Meanwhile, the Bears were calling 20 pass plays in the second half, four of those ending in sacks.

“I thought the first part of the game, the first half, we did what we needed to do,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Second half, I didn't think we got as many opportunities. I think that comes from not converting on third downs and lack of execution in the second half.”

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The Bears did convert just two of eight third downs in the second half.

But Loggains’ may have contributed to the mounting troubles in the second half with play-calling. The Bears gave the ball to Langford on seven consecutive first-down plays in the second half, which netted five, minus-1, 15, seven and four, six and minus-1.

While the commitment to the run might be found in that kind of play selection, the potential for predictability was obvious.

Fox, however, indicated that some of the problems lay, not with Loggains nor a newly formed offensive line, but perhaps with Langford not getting what was there for the getting. Langford himself acknowledged that he needed to do more with what the offensive line created for him.

“Well, I think we blocked up some runs pretty well,” Fox said. “That’s not an easy defense to run against, but I think there were some yards there, yards after the carry, I mean, yards after contact.

As far the non-committee approach, “I think the fact that we only ran it 20 times,” Fox said. “[The Texans’] per carry was 3.7, just like ours. The difference was they ran it 35 [times],we ran it 20, so the time of possession, that usually plays into that.”

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”